Monday, February 15, 2016

One Category at a Time: Adapted Screenplay

After a lean couple of years, 2015 saw the race for Best Adapted Screenplay return to high competitive form: Terrific adaptations like Steve Jobs and 45 Years couldn't find room in a field crowded mostly by Best Picture nominees: Critics prizes have been split every which way: And until the PGA pointed to our Best Picture frontrunner, it felt as though any of the five nominees had a legit shot at winning. It's a shame the contest has devolved into such an open-and-shut case.
The two best scripts of the lot, if you ask me, were the ones written by the category's two woman nominees: Phyllis Nagy's flawless distillation of the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt into the sublime prose of Carol, and Emma Donoghue's careful self-adaptation of her bestseller Room. Both translate their literary source material into functional screen stories with elegant visual grammer and incisive dialogue.

The same can be said of Brooklyn and The Martian. Nick Hornby (who should have won the whole darn thing last year for his wonderful interpretation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild) gives Colm Toibin's novel a succinct flow and authentic romanticism. And Ridley Scott's cinematic telling of Andy Weir's sciencey adventure owes a great deal to the perfectly judged sense of humour of the witty Drew Goddard (arguably worthy of a nomination for 2012's Cabin in the Woods).

But sadly, this category hardly calls for in-depth analysis of how these writerly assets may aid these contenders, because it's likely a done deal for The Big Short already. Charles Randolph and Adam McKay's take on the Michael Lewis non-fiction is densely worded, confidently batting around financial jargon that makes it sound awfully smart indeed. The sheer amount of research and planning that went into laying bare the book's content -- plus a dash of fourth-wall shatterings that aspire for humour and audience enlightenment -- make a case for The Big Short being far more a product of its screenplay than of McKay's agitated direction. Even if he doesn't land that allegedly more prestigious prize, this is one that he can take straight to the bank (as it were).

Will win: The Big Short
Runner-up: Room

Should win: Carol
Should be nominated: Steve Jobs

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